Forgive my long response, but the subject of being obsessive interests
me obsessively...with more than one book having been written on the
subject of record collecting and collectors...and with there being help
On Mon, 6 Mar 2006, Jeff Dunn wrote:
>Many have noticed the relationship between music and mathematics, and
>many of us on the list are collectors and catalogers, which surely must
>be related to the same impulse: that which possessed the Count of Sesame
While I believe there is a strong relationship between mathematics and
music...a point which I have used to debunk those who would criticize
composers for being "academic"...for many textbooks have been written
on the "rules" Bach used and help to create...while Bach certainly was
inspired...his "math" was probably so refined that it was intuitive...yet
it was there...But, for me, the math is not limited to the creation of
music but also reflected in my collection of music...
I believe that most record collectors are compulsive...ok, I will speak
for myself...I am complusive...but I am doing better these days. When
I was younger I would hate it when I had all but one of the symphonies
by a particular composer...ah I still recall the delight I had when...many
years ago...when I was finally able to find a copy (a broadcast performance)
of the Honegger First Symphony (Boston Symphony)...and the Piston First
(from a performance at the Manhattan School of music)...before these
works came out on disc... and when Gould recorded the Second and Third
Symphonies of Shostakovich and when I finally had all of the Miaskovsky
and Brian Symphonies...I don't think I can ever hope to have all of the
Hovhaness...even though I have about 30+ of them.
>So, why not expand the discussion to the Counting of works in general?
I love it...a friend of mine has been working on a listing of the number
of concert works for piano and orchestra...last count was over 12,000.
And then I love "The Book of Classical Music Lists."
Lists actually seem so much better when they feature numbers.
>It's always interested me how the First of anything is always a barrier.
>Brahms is the most famous for delaying his First symphony while writing
>others like the Op. 25 quartet or the Serenade #1. Less well known but
>equally interesting is Chris Rouse writing "Symphony No. 2" as part of
>his application to Oberlin without a No. 1 to precede it. This, of
>course, was a student work, not the REAL Symphony #2, but this reminds
>us of the Bruckner pre-symphonies 0 and 00.
And then there are the pre No.1 Symphonies by Diamond and Prokofiev...I
have a recording of the Diamond...and the early "withdrawn" symphonies
by Mennin, Schuman...the original version of the Barber 1st which I would
love to hear (a broadcast resides in Library of Congress)...as for the
Schuman...I just got permission from the family to get a photocopy of
>Then there are the professional catalogers hoping they can get their
>countable systematics appended to the works of others. And there are
>those composers, like Hindemith, refusing to count their symphonies--quick,
>how many DID he write?
In eflat, for band, Harmonie der Welt, Pittsburgh Sym. Mathis der Mahler
and the Sinfonia Serena, Lustige Sinfonietta and a later Sinfonietta...
Did I get them all?
As for professional catalogers...talk about a confused profession...they
continue to use a computer system (MARC) which was set up over 40 years
ago...still uses delimiters...was designed for cards...and designed only
for books and requires keying in much of the same information more than
once...and on to that the notion of figuring out "subject headings" for
me...ok, tell me, what is the subject heading for Webern's Symphony....
and then, as per the question you raise below...is it really a symphony.
And then catalogers still use uniform titles...Boy, it was great how all
of those cards lined up in the card catalog...remember card catalogs...
>Then there are the Definers: how can you "count" something unless you're
>sure it's in the correct category? Is the Domestic Symphony of Strauss
>REALLY a symphony? Are symphonic poems symphonies?
Well Strauss called it a Symphony...but then Robert Ashley called his
work "In memorium, Crazy Horse a Symphony" a symphony...and catalogers
gave the Ashley and the Strauss the subject heading of symphony...yet
the Ernest Gold Symphony for 5 instruments has the subject heading of
Quintets. Go figure...
No, Symphonic Poems aren't symphonies, but then many symphonies aren't
really symphonies...at least the Liszt symphonic poems are numbered...
>Then there are the strange numbering systems of the avant garde. I hope
>experts out there can provide interesting examples. I've seen decimals
>used, although Roman numerals seem to be more common.
And then there is the Gillis Symphony No. 5 1/2. Varese Density 21.5
(which was the density of platinum...the material used for the flute
for which the piece was written) and then we have those wonderful tempo
indications in the music Carter quarter note=62.42 with a passage that
features 9 against 13 or something equivalent...as my teacher used to
say...you can really only approximate it, and such indications are there
for structural reasons...
Then we have the numberings for the Dvorak Symphonies...and then
consider all of those early Mannheim school symphonists...no numbers of
for many of them. Then think of the poor catalogers who try to make a
uniform title with little information...many times without any thematic
catalog to use...and then, when someone does do a catalog of a composer
...the process by which that catalog becomes accepted by the musicological
community and then becomes part of the cataloger's canon for uniform
title...which is now more like title authority work...I could go on...and
>Somehow, putting a number on something gives it more gravitas, at least
>I think so. Or does it diminish??
When I started composing, it gave me great statisfaction to number things.
I wrote a series of preludes for piano...I was proud when every few weeks
or so during that semester I could show my teacher another work...I wrote
seven that semester! I wrote Sonatas for Organ, Piano and Harpsichord.
I recalled one composer who wrote several concertos...No.1 was for one
instrument, No.2 for something else, etc. So I numbered my Sonatas
I don't know if numbering adds significance or diminishes...I think
about Haydn...thank goodness we had H. Robbins Landon who "figured"
it all out...I really do love those works with numbers like Symphony
103a or whatever. And then we have the various numbering systems for
Vivaldi...Fortunately Groves gives us a key to all of those...but good
look at finding anything...and then there are the numbering systems of
some of the composer collected editions...Series 2,IIa etc. There are
at least two books which are guides to those numbering systems.
I wonder, did I want to complete my collection of the Miaskovsky and
Brian Symphonies because there were gaps...yes. However, do I want to
hear the First Symphony of Lees and the First Symphony of Schuman only
because I have recordings of the others. Nope, it is because I think
highly of and enjoy their music. At least I can make some distinction
...while the source of the obsession may be different, an obsession
And then there is a good friend of mine who concentrates on collecting
Symphonies...which works out well since I like collecting Piano Concertos.
I share my Piano Concerto recordings and he shares his Symphony
recordings...no, I am not referring to commerical issues, but to broadcast
recordings...which are, strictly speaking illegal from the git go.
Then there are books devoted to just piano concertos and yet at least
one I know which is devoted to symphonies by Americans...a good book but
with plenty of errors...oddly enough, written by an Englishman.
Sorry for rambling...but I love lists and having numbers makes it so
much easier. The only lists I really hate are things like..."the top
100 works of all time," etc. For me, those say nothing. However, if
you publised a book listing all of the Piano Concertos ever written I
would buy it...and probably put a pencil check next to all of those works
I have in recording...and keep looking for recordings of those I don't
have. I guess it is a disease...but at least I don't lose sleep over
those holes in my collection...I am doing much better now.
Is a 9th Symphony better than a second symphony...well, I figure, most
composers get better as they age...but then, in the case of Brian...for
me, he was at his best in the first measures of his "Gothic," his Symphony
No.1...which was actually his Second symphony...